For the first time since hiring Buddy Bell in 2000, the Rockies are looking for a manager in the off-season -- in other words, they are looking to hire a manager in a non-interim capacity for the first time in 12 years. This represents a big opportunity for Colorado to make a statement that the losing ways of the past few seasons are over.
Much has already been discussed about the candidates in the offing: Tom Runnells, Jason Giambi, Stu Cole, Brad Ausmus, Tim Wallach, and Sandy Alomar have been brought up as possibilities by the beat writers with their finger on the pulse. Both Alomar (Cleveland) and Ausmus (Houston and now Boston) have already garnered interviews for other jobs.
The big issue with luring in outside managerial candidates can best be summed up from this quote by an anonymous player in the Patrick Saunders' managerial article linked yesterday:
"We are essentially being managed by the front office now," said one Rockies player, who commented on the condition of anonymity. "I'm really wondering what kind of manager — I'm talking about a good manager — would come in here and accept this."
I understand that there are only 30 MLB manager jobs out there, so even a situation with limited power like Colorado's will still draw the quality candidates out there for an interview. Having those quality candidates accept is a different issue, but let's leave that alone for a minute. For the sake of argument, let's assume that anyone the Rockies offer the manager position to will accept the position. What should the Rockies want from a manager hired in the situation described above?
By most accounts, Jim Tracy was a good custodian of clubhouse culture but was somewhat of a failure in managerial tactics and in holding players accountable for failings in their fundamentals. With Bill Geivett taking over a lot of the latter (a large reason why Tracy is the former manager and not the current one), is the former all that matters for Colorado's new manager?
The front office appears to want to take as much of the tactics and strategy out of the managerial position as possible. If you ask me, that's a fine idea, so long as the front office makes sound decisions in that area (let's just say that I'm not sold on that proposition yet).
If my supposition about the front office is correct, it makes sense to hire someone whom the players will respect despite the lack of full managerial power, who will motivate the team, and who will maintain a great clubhouse atmosphere. Oh, and he should be somebody that excites even the casual fans and puts butts in seats. Wait, I just described Jason Giambi.
Or maybe the Rockies need someone that will bring a new attitude to the game -- who will, as Troy Renck suggests in his article, foster a "maniacal desire to compete and win, without excuses". Maybe Giambi is this guy too, but he was an integral part of a great clubhouse that has produced very poor results over the last two seasons.
Renck also opines that Colorado needs more discipline and accountability for its players -- especially since the Rockies had arguably the worst defense in the league last year. Jon Heyman's article about Giambi was illuminating in this regard: Giambi is a very nice guy -- does he have it in him to be that disciplinarian? Or is that even what Colorado needs from its manager?
Another important item to consider is that Colorado badly needs to improve how it develops its pitching talent, both in the minors and at the major league level. Mark Wiley's inevitable hiring as Director of Pitching Operations will help, and so will the hiring of a new pitching coach (I'm assuming). But is that enough?
Perhaps it's time for Colorado's manager to be someone with a pitching pedigree, someone who develops not only the baseball skills of the pitchers but also improves their mental toughness -- a big requirement in the unfriendly environment at Coors. Dave Martinez of Tampa Bay or Dave Righetti of San Francisco would be at the top of my list of those candidates.
My opinion on the matter is that the manager just isn't that important to on-field success, particularly in the situation that the Rockies' front office has created here. Rather, it's the ability to manage players, to motivate them for as much of the 162 game season as you can. If he can truly be a disciplinarian, Giambi would be my pick. If he can't, then I'd see if maybe a pitching guru could get Colorado's pitchers to find their command.
In the end, the front office will do what it wants to do. If you take them at their word, the front office wanted Jim Tracy back for 2013, so that could give some insight as to which type of candidate they will prefer this time around.
Well, there's not much, but Bryan Grosnick at Beyond the Boxscore has done some fine work in indexing the three main types of WAR so that they are all measured on the same scale. By his measure, Jordan Pacheco was the 7th worst qualifying position player in baseball this year. It's very interesting stuff for me, perhaps you will enjoy it too.